Centenarians proudly among the early voters in Rowan

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 2, 2012

CLEVELAND — Your excuse for not voting better be a good one.

Blanche Lentz already has set the bar pretty high.

So will Bruce Rogers Sr.
Lentz, 104, was among the voters Thursday morning at the Cleveland Town Hall, one of Rowan County’s early voting locations.

Rogers, also 104, plans to vote early at Rowan Public Library today or Saturday.

If they are not the county’s oldest voters, they’re darn close. The Post called an even older centenarian, 106-year-old Fannie Gaither of Granite Quarry, but Gaither reported Thursday that she won’t be feeling up to voting this year.

Lentz, who lives in Mount Ulla, took care of the civic duty after breakfast Thursday at Cj’s. She had her usual at the restaurant — livermush.

Darlene Barnette, who cares for Lentz some days, drove her to the town hall for voting.

Terri Lee, a granddaughter of Lentz’s, said the poll workers in Cleveland asked Lentz for an identification Thursday. Though she hasn’t driven in years, Blanche surprised everyone and pulled out an old driver’s license from her purse.

Later in the day, the Post asked through grandson-in-law Tom Lee whether Lentz remembered the first time she cast a vote. She did not.

“It’s been a long time ago,” Lee said.

Suffice it to say, it easily could have been pre-Depression and before Franklin Delano Roosevelt was even on the ballot as a presidential candidate.

In fact, if she voted when she were first eligible in 1926, women had only gained the right to vote six years earlier through ratification of the 19th Amendment.

“She tries to vote every year that she can, that it’s possible,” Tom Lee said. “… I think this is probably the first time she has voted early.”

Lentz is a strong woman for 104. She still moves from place to place with the aid of a walker.

She’s one of the few people who can still say she was born in a log cabin and is the only surviving member of the first graduating class at Mount Ulla High School.

Lentz graduated from nursing school in Statesville right around the Depression, but she spent much of her life living on the farm and raising a family.

Family members say Lentz loves to eat out and often persuades Barnette or another caretaker, Doris Bradford, to drive her to Cj’s, where her family also likes to gather on the third Tuesday of every month to celebrate birthdays.

Both Lentz and Rogers are avid readers of the newspaper. Rogers comes by it honestly. He is retired from the Charlotte Observer, where he served as circulation manager/director from 1959 to 1971.

“I’ve been voting throughout the years,” Rogers reports, adding that it’s important for him to cast a ballot.

Early voting ends at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rowan Public Library in Salisbury. Election Day is Tuesday, when polls are open from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

Through Halloween, Rowan County had 27,248 early voters.

Rogers only recently moved out of his longtime condominium and into the Carillon assisted-living facility off N.C. 150. A friend will be taking him to the early-voting location.

He laughed when asked if he could remember the first time he voted for president. Give him a break, he said.

If poll workers this year ask for an identification from Rogers, they will have no problem.

He only stopped driving about three months ago.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.